Fathers and fathering
‘Fathers and fathering’ blog article was written by Chris Hutchinson from the Parenting and Early Years Team at Australian Childhood Foundation.
Did you know that young children’s brains produce more than a million neural connections each second? For parents and carers, this offers a wonderful opportunity to offer children ways to see and experience relationships and learn that the world can be balanced, secure and loving.
Fathers play a crucial role in this. Researcher Dr. Nikki Martyn from the University of Guelph-Humber has found that fathers can help their children to build resilience, along with supporting problem solving and communication skills.
In order to facilitate this, she offers the following tips for sharing love and connection with children.
Tips for fathers to share love and connection
Model love: Love gets under your child’s skin and lives within them forever. It fills their hearts and teaches them they are always enough — and allows them to be confident and capable. The ripple effect of love is incredible – create a ripple with your child and see what beauty and wonder develop.
Be intentional about how you live your life, what you show your child and how you treat the people you and your child love. Remember, they are watching and learning from you all the time.
Play: From infancy, children learn through play. It is how they understand, process and make meaning of the world. Play is fun and engaging and it allows for attuned, loving and responsive connection. Engage and play with your child in developmentally appropriate ways.
Consider something that interests your child, and also share what you enjoy with them. Sharing play can help build a loving, trusting relationship that will last a lifetime.
Listen: Children are learning intensively from birth to age three in ways parents may not imagine. Create space and time to ‘watch, wait, wonder’ and listen to how your child perceives the world. Allow yourself to feel and explore the magic of the world through your child’s eyes. This will provide your child with the experience of feeling seen and heard, to know they are important and worthy of love. This will help you form a trusted and secure connection with them.
Storytime: Reading and sharing stories (real or imagined) is a wonderful way to connect and share a loving snuggle time. This is important for children to create a love of reading and develop listening, critical thinking and literacy skills and experience a calm relaxing time together, feeling secure and connected. You might also discover brilliant magical moments when your child shares their world with you.
Awe and wonder: For preschoolers and older children, imagining a world and building a fort is exciting. This kind of open-ended play using simple objects from around the home develops spatial reasoning and problem-solving skills. Pitching a tent or gazing at the moon allows children to see, hear and experience the world from a new perspective.
Going on a nature hunt to discover the many facets of the outdoors allows children to understand the world and allows you to share your interests and knowledge with them. For example, finding a snail can be one of the most brilliant events. You could explore together how they live and move, observing the snail’s shell. You might discuss fascinating insights about shapes, or patterns in nature. Share in the awe and wonder.
Share: Create trust by sharing yourself: who you are, what you love, your history and childhood. Children seek connection from birth, well before they can talk. Communicate and talk with your baby and young child, and they will learn about the world. As humans, sharing our feelings and experiences, and taking the risk of being vulnerable, is important to building meaningful, loving connections. There is strength and beauty in the vulnerable gift of yourself.
Being the best father you can means sharing love, connection and yourself with your infant and young child every day. We explore this in more detail in the Foundation’s Bringing Up Great Kids program.
Adapted from ‘Six ways fathers can share love and connection with their babies, preschoolers and young children’ by Dr Nikki Martyn, Program Head of Early Childhood Studies, University of Guelph-Humber.
Learn more about the Bringing Up Great Kids program
Our acclaimed parenting program, developed and established by Australian Childhood Foundation in 2005, Bringing Up Great Kids (BUGK) is a long-running and acclaimed program with more than 4,000 registered facilitators trained nationally. It has had more than 50,000 parents benefit from it since it started.